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Updated Apr 21, 2020

One of the first things many national governments in Africa did when faced with the first cases of COVID-19 was to close the schools. This closure has affected about 300 million African learners, who since have had to rely on alternative means of continuing their schooling, such as radio, TV, and online platforms.

 

Digitalization and Inequality 

The main problem for Africa is that access to digital technology, not to mention affordable and reliable Internet coverage, remains unevenly distributed. Even with notable improvement in communications infrastructure in the past few years, Internet penetration in Africa still lags far behind the global average, at just 39.3 percent as of March 2020 compared with the rest of the world at 62.9 percent.

 

Africa has the most expensive mobile data in the world.

 

The number of mobile phone users on the continent has increased dramatically in recent years; not that it would help much, given that Africa has the most expensive mobile data in the world.

 

Children take school lessons on television at their home in Abidjan on April 10, 2020, after the Ivorian Ministry of National Education initiated on April 9, 2020, teaching on television for primary and secondary school children in since the closure of schools in the country following the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP
Two children do their lessons in front of the television in their home in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, after the Ministry of National Education initiated television programs on April 9 to teach primary and secondary school subjects. (Issouf Sanogo / AFP)

 

Window of Opportunity

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for educators and administrative bodies to assess current gaps in delivering quality education to the continent’s most marginalized communities. As African heads of state petition international financial institutions and other countries for aid to help them through the pandemic, perhaps there can be special funds established exclusively for the purpose of improving at-home educational tools, especially for families where both parents must work full time and lack the means to assist their children with schoolwork.

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